Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A deputy, two foster children and, suddenly, a family

From left, Hadonica “Don” Hamilton, Lorrie Brown and Buffiesha “Buffie” Faulknor share a lighter moment Thursday in front of television cameras during a very emotional day in which Brown adopted the two teenage sisters.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

From left, Hadonica “Don” Hamilton, Lorrie Brown and Buffiesha “Buffie” Faulknor share a lighter moment Thursday in front of television cameras during a very emotional day in which Brown adopted the two teenage sisters.

A year ago, a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy named Lorrie Brown answered a call at a foster home, the kind she always took if she could. She likes kids.

The two girls in the house were sisters from Jamaica. Yes ma'am, they said when she talked to them. Polite, Brown thought, but strong, too. Wonder what their story is.

Things got settled and life went on until a couple of days later, when a state caseworker called Brown. That call you took? The foster mom doesn't want the older girl, the 16-year-old, any more. And good luck finding a home for two teenagers — looks like the sisters will be split up.

So. Was the deputy ready to be a foster parent?

Brown, 31 and separated without children of her own, had thought about fostering kids, had even asked about it. Her own family wasn't surprised to hear what she was considering. Lorrie always knew her own mind.

She called back and said yes.

The oldest was Hadonica — Don — outspoken, affectionate, a talker. Her little sister Buffiesha — Buffie — was more like Brown, shy and quiet, content with her books and sketches.

The sisters had it tough, with abuse allegations involving the mother's boyfriend and their illegal immigration. Once here, their mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The girls ended up in foster care after somebody realized they had been living in her hospital room for more than a week.

They started over at the deputy's home in Riverview. Arguments between the sisters, Brown noticed, blew over like a breeze. One day, she got Buffie a six-piece Chicken McNuggets lunch. The girl ate three and saved three for her sister — even though she wouldn't see her until that night, even after Brown assured her they would get Don something later. For so long, they had looked out for each other.

The girls thought Brown's house — their house, they corrected themselves — was beautiful. They cooked dinner and had movie nights and loved going through Brown's shoes in her closet. They laughed a lot in that house. Don, it turned out, had a thing about not letting you leave home without hugging you. Buffie said she wasn't scared anymore.

And who knew it could go both ways? Brown's separation was headed for divorce, and the girls were there every day, asking how her day went. Sometimes, they were the ones telling her it would be okay.

"I guess in essence, we helped each other," she would later say.

It was the girls who brought up adoption. They visited their mother, who had been legally deemed incapacitated, regularly at the hospital, but stepped out of the room when it was time for the adults to talk about it. Their mother asked if Brown would get any financial assistance for taking her girls. No, Brown said. Their mother started to cry. Where do I sign? she said.

It was a selfless act to secure her children's future when she was gone, a judge would later say.

Those who work in family court and who do not see happy endings every day rallied for this one, even finding an immigration lawyer who worked to make the girls citizens. At Christmas, the sisters wrote thank-you notes to the judge on their case, Buffie's signed with a smiley face, Don's with a purple heart.

Now 14, Buffie is on the honor roll at Lennard High. She sketches houses and thinks maybe she'll be an architect. Don, 17, has her GED and big plans for college and a career as a medical examiner. When she talks, it is hard to doubt this will happen.

This week, the girls took their seats in the courtroom on each side of Brown, holding tight to her hands under the table. And when Brown reached up to wipe away her tears, their hands came up with hers, making them laugh.

"By the power vested in me by the state of Florida," Circuit Judge Tracy Sheehan said, "this is your mom." Though they knew that already, a family lucky enough to find each other.

A deputy, two foster children and, suddenly, a family 04/09/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 9, 2010 10:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Shakeup on Adam Putnam campaign

    Blogs

    In a sign of unsteadiness for what  had  looked like a strong-out-of-the-gate Adam Putnam campaign, the Republican frontrunner suddenly fired his campaign manager and political director. Hard-charging Campaign manager Kristin Davis and political director Jared Small were two of the three outsiders to join …

    Putnam campaigning in Destin the other day as part of his 22-city bus tour
  2. Rays let early lead get away again in loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As pleased as the Rays were to win consecutive series against the contending Red Sox, Indians and Yankees and to get briefly back over .500, there was a lot of talk in the clubhouse before Monday's game against the Angels that it was time to do better.

    Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) high fives designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) as he rounds third on his lead off home run in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  3. Tampa man arrested for killing man in his USF-area home

    Crime

    TAMPA — A Tampa man was arrested Monday in the death of man found killed at a home in the University of South Florida area last week, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Kadeem Dareem Archibald, 26, was arrested Monday on a  second degree murder charge in the University Area killing of Khando Kerr. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Report: Trump asked intel chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence

    National

    President Donald Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, the Washington Post reports, citing current and former officials.

    From  left, CIA Director Mike Pompeo; Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats; and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers take their seats on Capitol Hill on May 11 before  testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on major threats facing the U.S. [Associated Press]
  5. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”